TV and theater actor Joaquin Valdes is currently in Bristol, United Kingdom as part of the acclaimed musical Miss Saigon.
Joaquin, who's also a TV and film director, left the country last March 22 and joined other Filipino cast members including Aicelle Santos, Iroy Abesamis, and Gerald Santos.
Aside from being part of the ensemble cast, Joaquin is also the understudy of Gerald, who plays Thuy.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) got in touch with Joaquin via email and asked him for updates about his Miss Saigon experience.
Joaquin told PEP that his first performance was on April 30, 2018.
He wrote in his email, "The new 2018-2019 cast officially took over the 2017-2018 cast in the latter part of the 8-week Manchester City run at the Palace Theatre.
"We stepped on stage on April 30. It's eight shows a week!"
He said that unlike in Manila where shows are usually held on weekends, working on theater in the U.K. is a full-time job.
He added, “We have two show days on Thursdays and Saturdays then we have breaks or days off on Sundays.”
How did he feel minutes before he went onstage?
“It was such a complex feeling.
"It's like a contained explosion of calm, pressure, gratefulness, determination, humility, pride, nerves, confidence, accomplishment, satisfaction, and uncertainty.
“The most immediate thought I had was 'don't f*ck it up'! Hahaha!"
Joaquin continued, “I didn't want to lose my job! LOL! But it was quite surreal.
"It was not just happiness or pride... it was more sophisticated than that.
"Paradoxical nga, e, equal parts destiny and despair. It's hard to explain."
How different is it to perform for foreign audience members?
“For one, we've always had full houses since we opened.
“These are audiences that are used to seeing musicals and shows of this scale or even larger.
“We have audience members that has seen Miss Saigon more than 40 times.
“Some know all the cast changes even the ensemble and swings!
“So while it's nice to play to a full house, this audience has a very high expectation in terms of preceding standards.”
But because they work hard for their performances in front of hardcore fans, it's more fulfilling when they see them enjoying the show.
He explained, “So when we get standing ovations (which have been happening nightly), we know the audience really means it.
“Tickets here can range from 40GBP to 70GBP so their appreciation comes at a high price.”
Joaquin is referring to the pound sterling, or more commonly known as pound, the currency used in the U.K.
One GBP is equivalent to PHP71.21 in the current exchange rate.
Joaquin also talked to us in detail about being part of Miss Saigon's ensemble cast and being an understudy.
“So far I'm loving the process our directors are putting us through,” he said.
“Once we opened the show, apart from doing my Ensemble track in the evenings, I am called to 'cover' or 'understudy' rehearsals in the daytime.
“Myself along with other amazing understudies/covers in the cast go through the scenes and songs as the principal characters we are to play.”
He said he's learning so much and also gets more freedom with his acting.
“Our directors allow us to explore the characters differently and to make new and braver choices.
“They want us to own our characters and not be a cookie cutter execution of what's been done before.
“I love this kind of artistic freedom, it brings me back to my sessions with my acting coach and vocal coach back home.
“I'm currently covering/learning three feature tracks apart from my ensemble track, so it's quite demanding physically and mentally.”
Joaquin also has no qualms about not playing a principal character in the production.
He said, “While playing a principal character is understandably prestigious, I'm thoroughly enjoying being part of the ensemble.
“There are important lessons, journeys and friendships that have become so valuable to my growth as an actor.
“Lessons I might not have learnt if I was a principal.
“Once you see the show, you'll realize how the ensemble really works together with the backstage crew, the wardrobe department, the sound guys, etc. to tell this important story.
“It takes an army of people who love this show to tell this story.”
Joaquin also revealed the production's schedules and touring locations.
“We just arrived in Bristol and will be here for around six weeks before moving to Plymouth, Norwich, Bradford and Sunderland.
“That closes the UK tour.
“Then we fly to Europe around November to do a run in Zurich, Switzerland and hopefully another city in Europe which we can't disclose yet.
“I'll be having a very white Christmas and New Year sa Switzerland!”
As of this moment, is Joaquin ready to totally give up his career in the Philippines for an international career?
“I was always a child of the theatre, I first stepped on stage at five years old.
“While being part of this show on the world stage is literally a dream come true, I can't help but feel that this is only the start of something new.
“I will forever be grateful for the season I had in the Philippines.
“But I think God is opening up doors for me for a reason I've yet to discover.
“If that includes an international career, who am I to say no?”
He continued, “So I'm just taking it a day at a time, doing my best in every single show regardless if I take my bow in front or at the back.
“Soaking in all the moments, relationships and experiences that is given to only a handful, not taking anything for granted.
“I'm just deeply humbled I get to do the very thing I love and call it my profession.”
And as for the thing he misses most in the Philippines?
“Chicken Joy. Leg and thigh part,’” Joaquin answered with a heart emoji.